Wikisonic in Second Life – amazing interactive music generation

I have been running the Machinima feed at Twitter, http://www.twitter.com/machinima, since April and its been a great opportunity to find some amazing work people have been doing in Second Life.

Today it happened again. Jon Brouchard, SL name Keystone Bouchard, created a video about an amazing new interactive music project that he just launched in Second Life called Wikisonic. Even more, there is a real-life version of Wikisonic being built at a museum in San Jose, California. Details on that are at the end of the post.

Link to Jon’s blog and post about Wikisonic. SL teleport link here. Interview below the video.

Q: What is your SL and RL background?

I came to SL with a background in architecture, using it as a tool for helping our real-life clients visualize design concepts.  At that time, I started to become very engaged with the in-world community, and the collaborative potential for creation in Second Life.  I was offered a position to move from Wisconsin to Berkely, California to become 3D Experience Architect for Clear Ink, working in Second Life full-time.  After about a year, I moved back to Wisconsin, and started doing freelance design/build consulting in Second Life and took on several more real-life projects as well, to balance the virtual work.

Q: What is Wikisonic?

Wikisonic is kind of an extension of the Wikitecture idea – whereby many people are able to work together on a single concept (http://www.studiowikitecture.com).  The idea is to create a large enough ‘instrument’ in Second Life, and find a way to embrace the lag in such a way that the combined composition wouldn’t sound too out of synch.  The circular pattern of Wikisonic creates a kind of endless dimension, with no beginning or end.  In this way, exacting syncopation is more forgiving, and new visitors can jump in at any point to continue improving and modifying the overall composition.  By utilizing sound clips that are in the key of C, within even intervals of C, E, and G major chords – we can achieve harmony in the composition, even though (because of lag) everyone might be hearing something completely different.

Q: What were the motivations to create Wikisonic?

I think Second Life affords the opportunity to engage the audience, and make them active and dynamic elements of the composition, instead of passive and static bystander-consumers.  Instead of a top-down hierarchy of production and sales, perhaps music can also be created from the bottom-up, with the audience acting as an accompaniment, or even majority composer of a song.   The motivation to create this was to simply experiment with collaborative creation of music – to see what might be possible now, in order to better anticipate what will be possible as virtual world technology continues to advance.

Q: Describe the technical process of creating and developing the project?

I didn’t think it made sense to have a structured beginning and end, so I knew the pattern of Wikisonic had to be circular.  The ‘music-box’ concept of acitvating notes in a column/chord – with a note ‘pick’ circling and triggering the active notes seemed a logical way to reach a larger avatar-scale, and better encourage participation of multiple visitors.  With this in mind, I approached several scripters who all told me it couldn’t be done, for various reasons.  The triggering sphere would have to be physical, and a physical object wouldn’t behave the way I wanted it to – travelling a perfect circular path.   Finally, I showed it to Dirty McLean (John Street in real-life), who also told me it wasn’t possible.   A few days later, he came up with a way – seemingly quite simple – that this could be realized.  Within a few hours, he had created the original Wikisonic interface!

Q: What are the goals of the project?

I interested in the current state of collaborative music generation in SL – but I’m even more interested in its future.  I will be watching advances in the technology closely, keeping an eye out for ways this can be made simpler, more synchronous, or more engaging.  I don’t see this as a single point in time, but as an ongoing trajectory that will continue to be fulfilled as virtual world technology improves.

I would also like to observe, research and learn from the way people use this interface.  I’m sure there are better ways to arrange this to achieve better acoustical experience and participation – so I will continue to work on ways to improve and expand the concept in general.

Q: Anything else you’d like to add?

The Wikisonic installation was chosen for construction at the real-life ‘The Tech’ museum in San Jose.  The exhibit opening will be June 3rd, and is open to the public.
http://www.thetech.org/techvirtual/

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